Prescription Drugs and OWI: Can Following a Doctor’s Orders Lead to an Arrest?

It’s common knowledge that alcohol and certain prescription medications are not supposed to be mixed — particularly if you’re planning to drive. Prescription drugs for pain, anxiety and depression typically have alcohol-related warnings on the bottles, as well as warnings against drowsiness and operating heavy machinery.

Still, sometimes people make mistakes and find themselves facing an OWI charge after drinking alcohol and taking a prescribed medication.

What if alcohol wasn’t involved?

In most cases, police officers decide to conduct field sobriety tests after smelling alcohol on a driver’s breath. But even if there’s not a whiff of alcohol, a police officer could ask you to submit to a field sobriety test if you’re suspected of being otherwise intoxicated. For example, certain medications can cause slowed reaction time or slurred speech. If you exhibit these, you could be asked to step out of the vehicle for sobriety testing.

Some prescription drugs are strong enough that taking the prescribed dosage could cause a person to show signs of intoxication. In other words, it’s possible for a driver to be pulled over after simply following a doctor’s orders.

Can a person be convicted of OWI based solely on drugged driving?

The law in Wisconsin says that drivers are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree that makes that person incapable of driving safely. “Intoxicants” may include alcohol, as well as prescription drugs and other controlled substances.

However, prosecutors need evidence to get a conviction. Depending on the circumstances, police and prosecutors may not have enough evidence of drugged driving, and the results of field sobriety tests may not be enough to convict a person.

No arrest automatically leads to a conviction. If you have been arrested for OWI, it’s important to start mounting your best defense as soon as possible.